Friday, November 13, 2009

Lighting the Holidays by the Numbers

By Dec. 26 each year, Jim Summey, our director of grounds, has already started thinking about next Christmas. He has to in order to figure out how to string so many Christmas lights they could reach from the Belmont attraction to Concord Mills Mall.

Holiday Lights at the Garden runs from the day after Thanksgiving, Nov. 27 to Dec. 31, but the planning continues all year beginning with a critique from staff of the current show. Monthly planning meetings keep staff on target for the opening night that has become one of the Garden’s busiest days of the year. The display, entertainment, activities, food service, guest services, parking and other logistics must all be arranged seamlessly.

For 33 nights the Garden becomes a spectacle of light, entertainment, tradition, nostalgia, cheer and merriment. Old fashioned trains, carriage rides, holiday carols, baked treats and other activities are designed to fill the holiday season with memories for guests that will last a lifetime.

Summey begins the project in early October, hiring as many as five temporary staff to assist full and part time staff as well as volunteers. Decorating takes six weeks, starting with the outer areas of the garden and finishing with the Visitor Pavilion.It will take about 2,500 man hours to complete the installation

More than 600,000 lights on 12,000 strands illuminate the entrance on New Hope Road, the roadway, the ponds, the buildings and about eight acres of formal gardens. Put end to end, these strands would stretch for more than 30 miles.

About 540,000 of the lights in the garden are LED lights which burn cooler and use 90 percent less electricity than the mini lights most people use in their homes. The Garden uses about 2,000 drop cords to run lights from existing power supplies.

So as you can tell we're well on our way. Next week we are expect Scheneider Tree Care, who will do some of the high work for us. So we'll keep you posted on how that goes.

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